Gnosticism Reimagined? (Part 4)

A New New Testament and the Jesus Seminar

SecretKnowledgeIt would be a grave mistake to not further explore the connectivity between A New New Testament and the Jesus Seminar established in Part 3 of this series.  This connectivity is clearly stated in the Presbyterian News Service article on the New New Testament.  The two key paragraphs are excerpted below.

Reyes-Chow is part of a covenant group led by noted theologian and scholar Hal Taussig, which produced A New New Testament …


… The discovery of the Gnostic Gospels in Egypt rekindled debate among theologians and religious scholars about what a “proper” New Testament should contain. One think tank that emerged was the 150-member Jesus Seminar founded by Robert Funk. During his lifetime, Funk advocated for a volume along the lines of what was produced by Taussig’s council; Funk also lobbied strongly for the extraction of some books in the New Testament, among them the Gospel of John.

Two of Taussig’s Jesus Seminar colleagues — John Dominic Crossan and Karen King — joined his council for A New New Testament. This move aroused some criticism, including critics who wondered what authority the council members had to re-write God’s Word.

Note the following:

  1. The Gnostic texts, the Jesus Seminar and the debate about the books that should be contained in a “proper” New Testament are directly connected
  2. There is direct personnel overlap between the council for A New New Testament and the Jesus Seminar: Hal Taussig, John Dominic Crossan and Karen King.
  3. The connection between the PCUSA and A New New Testament is through the Rev. Bruce Reyes-Chow, about whom much more will be said in the following posts.

The Presbyterian News Service article presents the Jesus Seminar as an interesting and credible group of scholars.  The only hint of something amiss is the statement (see above excerpt) that the Seminar’s founder, Robert Funk, “lobbied strongly for the extraction of some books in the New Testament, among them the Gospel of John.”  This statement completely fails to convey the truth about the motivating beliefs of Robert Funk, or, of those who chose to throw their theological / intellectual lots in with him.  We can begin to see the truth by visiting the web site of the organization founded by Funk, the Westar Institute (first “about” paragraph excerpted below, emphasis added).

Westar Institute — home of the Jesus Seminar — is dedicated to fostering and communicating the results of cutting-edge scholarship on the history and evolution of the Christian tradition, thereby raising the level of public discourse about questions that matter in society and culture.


Robert Funk Theses (1 of 3)


Robert Funk Theses (2 of 3)

Along the left side of this post are excerpts from the “Twenty-One Theses” of Robert Funk, which are published on the Westar Institute site.  I have included screen shots of the key sections: Theology, Christology, the Canon and the Language of Faith.  Although virtually everything in these theses is appallingly heretical, I have nonetheless highlighted (with red shading) those which are most relevant to this particular topic.


Robert Funk Theses (3 of 3)

We get off to a rousing start with thesis number one: God is dead.  I beg you, dear reader, to stop and seriously ponder.  The PCUSA has published a news article that discusses in positive terms an organization who’s very first motivating thesis is that God is nonexistent.

With regard to Jesus Christ, Funk is no less radical, opening with: We should give Jesus a demotion (i.e., no longer consider Him to be divine).  He then proceeds to call the doctrine of the atonement subrational, sub ethical and monstrous.  Are you prepared to accept these views to be included within the bounds of acceptable Christian belief?  If not, what word except heretical is sufficient to describe these ideas?  If so, then what is heretical?

Can there be any surprise that “The Canon” of Scripture is described as an attempt to invent Christianity as opposed to the inspired Word of God?  And, if the original Scriptural canon was merely a human act of invention, then why shouldn’t we go on inventing and re-inventing Christianity?  Finally, note that the Bible does not contain fixed, objective standards of behavior.  That’s extremely important if your project is to bring religious beliefs into line with the prevailing elite cultural perspectives on sexuality and marriage, among others.  The direct overlap with post-modern Christian beliefs must also be noted, in particular:

  • “Absolutism seems to be replaced by relativism. Christian morality and theology are relative to the people who embrace them. Hence the rise of moral and theological plurality, assuming that no one perspective has the dominant position in church, and no single unique outlook on reality accounts for the world we live in.”
  • “The concept of truth, including biblical truth, seems to have no correspondence to objective reality. Hence, the search for truth appears to be a vain exercise and the reader should be content with individual/personal interpretation. Systematic theology should be replaced by “edifying” theology, which aims at a continuing conversation between the reader and scriptures, rather than discovering truth.”

This is the philosophical atmosphere in which the Jesus Seminar and A New New Testament exists.  Given all that is here said and implied, what can possibly be asked except (see bottom of the third figure) “What Comes after Christianity?”  Perhaps Gnosticism?

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